Laws distress home birth advocate

Kelly Roche, of Sandy Beach, with son Dylan, 2.
Kelly Roche, of Sandy Beach, with son Dylan, 2.

KELLY Roche is one mum ‘devastated’ by the ramifications of the Federal Government’s new midwife laws.

Mrs Roche, of Sandy Beach, gave birth to her son Dylan at home two years ago under the supervision of a registered midwife.

“It was very important to me to have the continuity of care that a private midwife provides, from when conception has occurred, right throughout the pregnancy, the birth and beyond,” she said.

“You’ve got a relationship with your midwife that you would never find in the public or private health system,” she said.

But now, Mrs Roche said, women’s choices would be limited by legislation.

“People are faced with a choice: to have their baby in a hospital, or to use midwives who are unprotected and unregistered.

“It really is devastating. It means there’s less opportunity for people like me to make choices about how to deliver their own babies.”

Mrs Roche said the first birth she ever attended was that of a friend who home-birthed.

“Her experience was wonderful,” she said.

She said other friends had ‘diverse’ birth experiences at hospitals.

Mrs Roche said the negative experiences were usually the result of ‘highly medicalised births’.

With this in mind, Mrs Roche felt she would have ‘more control’ giving birth at home.

“I felt my choices would be respected, but I also knew that if I needed medical help, it was readily available.”

At that time she lived a 25-minute car trip away from Coffs Harbour Hospital.

“My midwife had established protocols with the hospital so that if I needed, she could contact them and they would be expecting me.”

Now pregnant with her second child, Mrs Roche had ‘no hesitation’ in choosing the same process again – despite the fact her midwife may no longer be able to be registered.

Midwife laws

  •  Midwives will be able to provide Medicare-funded care for the first time.
  •  A national register will be set up, instead of current State bodies.
  •  Indemnity insurance will be a registration pre-requisite.
  •  No midwives have been indemnified since 2001.
  •  New laws fail to provide for midwives offering home births.
  •  Framework includes a request for midwives to form a collaborative relationship with a doctor.
  •  Midwives will require doctor to sign-off to access Medicare insurance and pharmaceutical benefits.

Future looks bleak

Midwives are fearful the laws passed through Senate last week will leave them high and dry in the registration stakes.

Gail Baker, a registered midwife and operator of Bun in the Oven Home Birth Services at Lowanna, south of Grafton, said the legislation was ‘not good’ for midwives in her position.

Currently, midwives are not able to access indemnity insurance – the result of a landmark case in 2001, when a Sydney woman was awarded $11 million in damages after suing her obstetrician for medical negligence.

Ms Baker said ever since, insurance companies would not touch midwives ‘with a barge pole’.

The new laws will provide midwives the ability to provide Medicare-funded care – but only if they are registered, and to be registered, they must be indemnified.

“What worries me the most is that midwives’ being without indemnity insurance is going to drag on and on,” Ms Baker said.

A Grafton-based midwife, who did not wish to be named, said the laws gave doctors ‘veto over midwives’.

To be eligible for a Medicare provider number, midwives will need the sign-off of an obstetrician.

“This provides an opportunity for doctors to have power over a qualified, experienced midwife,” she said.

The midwife called for a ‘publicly-funded home birth service’, which would come under the State hospital umbrella. "It’s a choice that should be available to all women."

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